From street level, the Latinx organizers looked almost impenetrable. Outside City Hall Tuesday, more than 100 advocates squeezed onto the Polk Street sidewalk, loudly demanding the city fund a variety of Latinx programs in the upcoming budget.
Ani Rivera, the co-chair of the Latino Parity and Equity Coalition coalition and executive director of longstanding cultural institution Galería de la Raza, helmed a podium on City Hall’s steps, brightening the gray morning with her magenta haircut and bubblegum-pink blazer. Watching her were supporters dressed in black and orange Latino Task Force jackets, brandishing handmade posters that read “Aquí estamos, no nos vamos.” Here we are, and we’re not leaving. Among them was Supervisor Hillary Ronen.
“We need to be at the table,” Rivera thundered. “Enough with giving us crumbs!”
As city officials finalize the upcoming budget for the next two fiscal years, a dozen Latinx member organizations of the parity coalition and the Latino Task Force today said they want Latinx workforce programs, cultural hubs, and family programs to get financed. The funding is key to stabilizing a community that is still reeling from the pandemic, leaders said.
Organizers of the rally did not point to specific budget line items or amounts they wanted increased, however, saying instead that the rally was a general call for more services for the Latinx community.
“Job loss and eviction is the primary reason we are affected by homelessness,” Rivera said. She said the fact that Latinx people earn $50,000 less than the average San Francisco salary is “shameful,” and pointed out that, since 2019, Latinx homelessness has jumped 55 percent.
Ivan Corado-Vega, the Latino Task Force manager, said the city should support Latinx employment programs. “Without our labor, there is no San Francisco,” he said.
The Latino Equity Parity Coalition also asked for six one-time capital improvements for city nonprofits. William Ortiz-Cartegena, a commissioner on the Small Business Commission, praised how the Mission has a 20 percent storefront vacancy rate compared to a 50 percent vacancy rate in other parts of the city.
“This work couldn’t be done without the amazing nonprofits in our commercial corridors,” Ortiz-Cartegena said, punching his fist in the air. “We need our nonprofits and our small businesses so that they’re not displaced.”
At this stage, the mayor has submitted her budget and the Budget Legislative Analyst and the Budget and Appropriations Committee reviews and considers it. By July, the Board of Supervisors will amend the budget and vote to approve it, and send it back to the mayor to sign by August.
Advocates also demanded funding for cultural institutions, and family and youth programs, including many based in the Mission. At the front was Rodrigo Durán, the executive director of Carnaval, who punctuated speakers’ introductions by blowing his concha shell. One of the rally’s many young attendees hoisted a poster that read, “Keep Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts in the Mission.”
“We know that art and culture is part of our healing and well-being,” said Celina Lucero, the executive director of social services organization Horizons Unlimited.
Lucero emphasized the need to fund violence-prevention programs and mental health services. She pointed out that Black and Latinx youth report disproportionate suicide rates, and experience anxiety and depression. “We see that our families and youth are hurting,” Lucero said.
Marvin Matamoros agreed, and shared how the Latino Task Force welcomed him with open arms as he navigated his next steps after recently graduating from UC Berkeley. The Mission High alum said he was living proof of the work nonprofits do — and asked for continued support.
“Despite not having enough experience, I was welcomed, and I was given the opportunity to work with the community,” Matamoros said. “They saw my commitment, they saw my dedication, they saw my power.”
Multiple speakers on Tuesday argued that without the nonprofits or organizations present, Latinx communities would have suffered more in the pandemic. Though Latinx people make up 15 percent of the total San Francisco population, they account for nearly half of the Covid-19 cases.
Efrain Barrera, director of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, said Latinx groups had distributed more than $50,000 in cash grocery cards, $22 million in income replacement and direct cash assistance, and 17,000 diapers. “We know you need diapers,” he said.
Last year, Latinx groups demanded the mayor keep funding Covid-19 resource hubs, which distributed free covid vaccines, tests and food to the community. As emergency federal funding ends this year, local funding could be crucial to keeping communities afloat, social workers and doctors have said.
“We have been, and will continue to be, essential to the fabric of this city,” Barrera said. “It’s time to end the historic underinvestment of our Latino community.”